Image: Workers tear down museum's crosses.
Jan Bauer  /  AP
Workers tear down the crosses of the private Wall memorial near the former allied Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday.
updated 7/5/2005 6:57:01 AM ET 2005-07-05T10:57:01

Workers on Tuesday began removing a field of crosses at Berlin’s former Checkpoint Charlie after a privately run museum lost a court battle to keep the memorial to people killed at the East German border during the Cold War.

Workers in blue overalls began unscrewing the 1,067 crosses after covering the plaques with the victims’ names and carrying them away.

Several hundred protesters jeered and whistled derisively in the rain at the former crossing point between East and West Berlin. “Remember, Don’t Forget” read one sign. Several people shouted “Betrayers of the fatherland!”

The privately run museum had been given until Tuesday to raise $43 million to purchase the land where it erected the memorial in October. It didn’t reach that goal.

Leased land
The museum had been leasing the land from the Hamm-based BAG bank, but its agreement expired at the end of 2004, and a court ordered the memorial removed.

The memorial consisted of a rebuilt section of the Berlin Wall and heavy wooden crosses representing the museum’s tally of the people killed at the East German border between 1961 and 1989. It sits on land that was formerly on the East German side of the checkpoint.

The adjacent Checkpoint Charlie museum — Berlin’s second busiest with 700,000 visitors last year — is not in any jeopardy.

Named “Charlie” from the phonetic alphabet — checkpoints “Alpha” and “Bravo” were elsewhere in Berlin — the checkpoint was established by the U.S. Army in 1961 after East Germany closed its border. It was the main crossing where foreign tourists, diplomats and military personnel entered and left the Soviet sector of the divided city, with signs warning in large black letters: “You are leaving the American sector.”

The land today is a high-rent downtown district, but because of the historical significance of the site the museum has ruled out erecting the memorial on cheaper land elsewhere.

Germany, divided into East and West during the Cold War, was reunited in 1990 with the collapse of communism.

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